Memorial Service Held for Pilot Killed in F/A-18C Hornet Crash

Maj. Richard Sterling Norton, 36, a pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, Marine Aircraft Group 11, stationed at MCAS Miramar, died in an aricraft crash on July 28 in Twentynine Palms, California

Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar in San Diego paid tribute Friday to a pilot killed in an F/A-18C Hornet crash in Twentynine Palms, California last month.

A memorial service was held at 10:30 a.m. aboard MCAS Miramar for Maj. Richard Sterling Norton, 36, who was based there. A procession to the cemetery follwed the ceremony around 1 p.m. Friday.

[G] Memorial Held at MCAS Miramar For Marine Killed in Plane Crash

According to the U.S. Marine Corps, Norton – a pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, Marine Aircraft Group 11, stationed at MCAS Miramar – died around 10:30 p.m. on July 28 in a jet crash during a training mission.

Officials said the single-seat aircraft had departed from MCAS Miramar “to perform a close air support mission” as part of a training exercise taking place at Marine Air Ground Combat Center (MAGCC) at Twentynine Palms when the aircraft crashed.

The cause of the deadly crash remains under investigation. Twentynine Palms is located in San Bernardino County, about 175 miles northeast of San Diego County.

“My heart goes out to our Marine’s family as we support them through this difficult time," said Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, commanding general of 3rd MAW, in a press release on July 30.

Officials said Norton was a native of Arcadia, California, commissioned in the Marine Corps March 25, 2005. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, and also deployed to Japan several times.

Over his military career, Norton was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star, according to the Marine Corps.

“Losing Maj. Norton is a tremendous loss to the MAG-11 Team,” said Col. William Swan, commanding officer of MAG-11 in a press release. “He was one of the best and brightest Hornet pilots our nation had to offer – our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Norton leaves behind a wife. 

On Wednesday, Norton's widow told NBC 7 her beloved husband was also a Top Gun graduate and a graduate of the WTI program (Weapons and Tactics Instructor).

He was a double-patch wearer, she said. It was very rare for a pilot to achieve both of those feats.

“This Marine was a top performer, stellar Marine by all accounts,” Swan told NBC 7. “Unfortunately the nature of our job as Marines is inherently dangerous.”

The Wingman Foundation, a non-profit that provides post-mishap support for the Navy and Marine Corps aviation community and their families, is collecting donations for Norton's family. 

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